Saturday, December 31, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Reader Favorites of 2016

Wow. It's New Year's Eve already! There have been a lot of great recipes on this blog in 2016, but without further ado, here are YOUR favorites, across all categories, from this past year.

Honey Sesame Chicken {Instant Pot Recipe}

Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa and Cilantro Lime Crema

Frosty Lemon Squares

Ritzy Tilapia

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Be sure to stay tuned tomorrow for what I'll cook in 2017... and thanks again to Sarah at Fantastical Sharing for hosting the countdown.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Best Crock Pot and Instant Pot Dishes of 2016

Today in the Countdown, hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing, we look back at the best Crock pot recipes of this last year as featured here on Cook with Sara. But I couldn't just limit it to the Crock pot -- this year I got an Instant Pot and have loved using it for all sorts of dishes, so I am expanding this category today to include the Instant Pot. I love the instant pot because it can do both - pressure cook and slow cook, among other things. I haven't yet used it to make rice or yogurt, and I have experimented on the many settings, but I've been really pleased with everything I've cooked in it, and have easily adapted crock pot or even stove top meals for the pressure cooker.

If you're considering the IP, but haven't yet taken the plunge, leave me any questions in the comments and I will try to help!

Barbacoa Beef

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps with Quick Pickles

Asian Beef Short Ribs

Macaroni and Cheese

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Best Desserts of 2016

This is almost too difficult a task - how do you narrow it down to just the "best" desserts of 2016? It's not like there were any bad desserts. Really. We should have a post of just all desserts... but that might not keep your attention. So I have managed to narrow it down to five - with a few more coming on Saturday for "reader favorites."

Caramel and White Chocolate Cookies

Blueberry Pancake Ice Cream

Blackberry Orange Cake

Rhubarb Dream Bars

Chocolate Peppermint Poke Cake

Be sure to check out even more favorites lists at Fantastical Sharing!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Best Main Dishes of 2016

Today we're looking back on my favorite main dishes of 2016. There were almost too many to choose from to only pick favorites, so I did get sneaky... you'll see some other favorite main dishes when crock pot meals are featured on Friday! There will also be a few included in the "Reader Favorites" category on New Year's Eve so don't forget to check back!

And now, without further delay, here are my favorite main dishes from 2016.

Sweet and Tangy Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Cheeseburger Soup

Perfect St. Louis or Baby Back Ribs

Bowties with Bacon, Carrots and Peas

Green Chile Enchilada Stack

Thanks again to Sarah at Fantastical Sharing for hosting the Countdown!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Best Breakfasts of 2016

The Countdown continues - revisiting the favorite recipes from 2016 in all different categories. Today breakfasts are featured. Whether you want something hearty or something light, there was plenty to choose from this year. I can always be counted on to make about a million varieties of muffins... but remember, these are just my absolute FAVORITES, so be sure to look in the index if you need more inspiration.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

Cherry Almond Coffeecake

Blueberry Baked French Toast

Cranberry Crumble Muffins

Monday, December 26, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Best Apps and Snacks of 2016

I love this time of year between Christmas and New Year's for several reasons, but one of them is that it's great fun to look back on what I've cooked and baked this year! All my faves (and yours too!) will get posted here this week, thanks to the Countdown to 2017 hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes.

We'll start the week with the best appetizers and snacks. Now, full disclosure, all of these delicious items that I'm posting as appetizers, I actually served as dinners. But they do double duty! And sometimes appetizers ARE the best dinners. So whether you need party food or supper food, be sure to try one of these great dishes.


Sweet and Spicy Cranberry Meatballs

Shrimp Scampi Dip

Chicken Pepper Jack Flatbread

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chocolate Peppermint Poke Cake

Christmas cookies are the bomb, but I really like having a festive dessert to serve around Christmas time. This cake, which is super easy to prepare, is also super delicious to eat, and looks beautiful to boot!

This cake is modeled after all the "better than" cakes... there are so many varieties now! So let them eat cake. And have a Merry Christmas!

Find more Christmas ideas at Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Fabulous, Show and Share, Full Plate.

Chocolate Peppermint Poke Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix, plus eggs and oil needed for mix
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup hot fudge sauce, warmed
8 ounces Cool Whip
1 package Andes Peppermint Bits
1 cup crushed Candy Cane Oreos

Bake cake according to package directions. While cake is still warm, poke holes all over the top of the cake using the handle of a wooden mixing spoon.

Combine the sweetened condensed milk and hot fudge sauce and whisk well. Pour over the cake, aiming to fill the holes as best as possible. Cover and chill for about an hour. Spread Cool Whip on top and sprinkle the peppermint bits and cookie crumbs over the Cool Whip. Cover and chill for an additional 3 hours (or longer).

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hot Cocoa Cookies

I think these will be the definite winner for best Christmas cookie this year. I may have to make another batch to take to Christmas gatherings as they are disappearing rather quickly around here.

And what's not to love? A decadent chocolate cookie base, a marshmallow middle, and delectable chocolate frosting. And sprinkles!

Seriously, these are SO good and SO pretty on a Christmas cookie tray. I hope you'll add them to your plans for Christmas this year. You won't be sorry. Until your pants don't fit. Then we can join a support group together.
Sprinkles make everything better.

Find more great stuff at Hearth and Soul, What's Cookin', Wow Me, Wow Us, Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Fabulous, Show and Share, Full Plate, Foodie Friday, Friday Frenzy.

Hot Cocoa Cookies

1/2 cup butter
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
25 or so large marshmallow

2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a microwave safe bowl melt the butter and chocolate, at 50% power at one minute intervals, stirring between each interval. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on low speed until well combined. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and blend until just combined. While mixing, add the flour mixture gradually and blend until just combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat liner. Use a tablespoon (or a tablespoon sized cookie scoop) to scoop the dough, then roll the dough in your hands to create balls. Arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheets, then flatten slightly. Bake cookies at 325 for about 12 minutes.

While the cookies bake, cut the large marshmallows in half crosswise. When the cookies have baked, remove from oven and press one marshmallow half (cut side down) into the center of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake another 2-3 minutes. Allow the pan of cookies to cool a few minutes, then transfer cookies to cooling rack.

For the icing, combine melted butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, water and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix together with a whisk. Place wire cooling rack (with cookies on it) over a baking sheet (to catch any excess icing). Spoon a small amount of icing onto the top of each marshmallow, and use the back of the spoon to spread it a bit. After icing just a couple cookies, top with sprinkles before the icing dries.

Allow icing to set up about 30 minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: Glorious Treats

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Peppermint Puppy Chow

Peppermint is one of my favorite flavors at Christmastime (or all winter). Case in point: Peppermint Patty Brownies, Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies, Triple Peppermint Cookies, Peppermint Cheesecake Bars, Candy Cane Bundt Cake.

I knew when I saw this recipe that I would have to try it - it's so easy to make and so addicting! But the great thing is, you can just eat a few pieces (or try to eat just a few) after you've sampled several cookies... (not that I have any experience with that.)

This is a great addition to your holiday snacking fare! Hooray for Peppermint.

Find more inspiration at Hearth and Soul, What's Cooking, Wow Me, Wow Us, Full Plate, Foodie Friday, Friday Frenzy.

Peppermint Puppy Chow

5 cups Rice Chex cereal
10 ounces vanilla flavored Almond Bark
1 cup crushed candy canes
1 cup powdered sugar

Pour the cereal into a large bowl. Place the almond bark in a microwave safe bowl and heat at 50% power at 45 second intervals until melted. Add the cereal, stirring and folding until the cereal is completely covered. Fold in the crushed candy canes.

Pour the powdered sugar into a zipped-top bag. Pour the cereal mixture in next. Seal the bag or container and shake until all the cereal is coated with the sugar mixture.

Discard excess powder. Store at room temperature up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long!

Recipe Source: Sally's Baking Addiction

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole {or anytime casserole!}

A great brunch recipe is a treasure. And this is one. I love this dish! Full of potatoes, eggs and sausage with a little red pepper thrown in for color - it's the perfect holiday breakfast, or supper!

I served this with cranberry salad and gingerbread muffins and it was a wonderful combination. Liven up your holiday breakfast or brunch (or supper!) with this great dish and the high praise will start rolling in!

Get more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

1 pound breakfast sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup red pepper, large diced
1 (30-32oz) bag frozen shredded hash browns
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 cup shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese
8 eggs
2 cups milk

In a large skillet, cook sausage, onion and red pepper over medium heat until sausage is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Remove meat and vegetables with a slotted spatula and then drain all but 1 Tbsp. fat. Return skillet to the heat and add hash browns to skillet. Cook until lightly browned.

Place hash browns in bottom of lightly greased 9x13 inch pan. Top with sausage mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over hash brown mixture.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 8-10.

(If you want to make this ahead of time, after adding the egg mixture, cover and refrigerate. Add ten minutes to the baking time.)

Recipe Source: Adapted from Plain Chicken

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gingerbread Muffins

I love the flavor of gingerbread, especially at this time of year. This past weekend, I made pumpkin gingerbread, and ginger cookies remain one of my favorites. When I saw this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it. Although the original recipe made mini muffins, I made regular muffins and served them for brunch.

These have just the right amount of spice and are topped with a lovely cinnamon sugar. To change things up a bit, I also frosted some of these with a simple powdered sugar frosting - both varieties are absolutely delicious. Stay tuned for a wonderful breakfast casserole to serve alongside these muffins...

Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Fabulous, Show and Share, Hearth and Soul, What's Cooking, Wow Me, Wow Us, Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday, Food on Friday, Friday Frenzy.

Gingerbread Muffins

2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup plus brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/3 cup water

For topping:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Whisk to blend. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the molasses.

With the mixer on low speed, stir in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Add in the second half, again mixing just until incorporated. Mix in the water on medium-low speed, just until evenly mixed and no lumps remain.

Divide the batter between the paper lined muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds of the way full. Bake at 350 until the tops are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and whisk until evenly combined. Dip the top of a muffin in the melted butter, then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat with a thin layer. Repeat with the remaining muffins.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sausage and Potato Soup with Spinach

This is the last official post for Secret Recipe Club. So I couldn't be more thrilled to be assigned to Sarah's blog, Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Sarah has been the tour de force behind the SRC for a while, and I want to thank her for all her hard work; it's so fun to be involved in this exchange.

Sarah has a ton of recipes on her blog. She really IS fantastical at sharing recipes. When I saw the recipe for this soup, I knew it would be the perfect choice. I made this soup on the day of the first snowfall in Minnesota (November 18 - not too shabby, folks!) and it was a great dinner.

We loved the soup - it was perfect for a (sort of) snowy day. I love the combination of spicy sausage, tender red potatoes and the colorful spinach. A little cream and parmesan at the end really makes this soup special. The hot Italian sausage was a bit much for my family, so next time I'll use mild.

Thanks, Sarah, for a great recipe, and for a wonderful run with SRC!

Sausage and Potato Soup with Spinach

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
5 cups chicken broth
1 pound red potatoes, diced
4 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage. Crumble and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, onion, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Stir often while cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes until onions are translucent. Add chicken broth, then bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Add spinach and stir until it wilts. Then stir in heavy cream and Parmesan cheese and cook for another minute. Serves 6.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cranberry Crumble Muffins

It's time to start planning holiday menus, and this muffin should be on your list!

Bursting with cranberries and topped with a delicious streusel, this would be a welcome addition to any breakfast, brunch or coffee break.

You can whip these up without even taking out the stand mixer, so there really are no excuses. Time to get festive!

Find more great recipes at Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Fabulous, Show and Share, Hearth and Soul, What's Cooking, Wow Me, Wow Us.

Cranberry Crumble Muffins

Muffin batter:

1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 - 12 ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen, unthawed

Crumb topping:

1 cup flour
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
4 Tbsp. butter, cold, diced

For the muffins, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger. In a large measuring cup or batter bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla until fully combined. The mixture will be very liquid. Add in the flour quickly while stirring. Stir until a smooth batter is formed. Add in the cranberries, and mix to combine.

For the topping, in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt using a spoon until combined. Then add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender, knives or your fingers until the mixture has pea-sized crumbs.

Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups with the batter. Take a tablespoon full of topping and place it on top of each muffin, gently pressing it into the batter so it does not fall off. Divide any remaining topping among the muffins.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Cool muffins completely in pan. To remove, gently loosen tops of muffins from pans; then using a spatula go down the side of each muffin cup and gently and swiftly push the muffin out.

The muffins may be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours or in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Food and Wine

Monday, November 7, 2016

One Pan Cheesy Pasta with Sausage

There were so many cries of "this is SO good!" when I served this that I lost count. There were absolutely no leftovers - a sign of a great meal! I know that it needs to become a regular menu item at our house or there might be some kind of revolt. And why shouldn't it? It's easy, fast and delicious - three of my main requirements for busy weeknights.

It really couldn't be simpler - saute some sausage and onion, throw in tomatoes, broth and pasta, cook til the pasta is done, then stir in the cheese. Dinner will be ready in no time. Serve with a big green salad and get ready for the cheering!

Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Favorite Recipe of the Month.

One Pan Cheesy Pasta with Sausage

1 lb. smoked sausage
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, pureed if you prefer
1/2 cup milk
8 oz small pasta shapes
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, each
2 cups shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese

Brown the sausage and saute the onions in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, milk, and pasta then bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low; cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir in cheese. Serves 4-6.

Recipe Source: Budget Savvy Diva
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